Professor Michael Arthur - comment for Leeds Student newspaper

Professor Michael Arthur opinion piece for Leeds Student newpaper.

I am the product of a publicly-funded higher education system and all my life I have argued that universities should be free for anyone who has the talent to benefit from attending.

But everything changed when the Labour government decided that 50% of the population should go to university. This sounded the death knell for free higher education for all and it became sadly inevitable that successive governments would want to further reduce the public subsidy of higher education.

Against that backdrop, I have fought to retain as much public funding for higher education as possible and in any event for it to remain free at the point of delivery. If we cannot have a system which guarantees a free university education, we can at least have a system which ensures it is free when you start a degree.

Now government is set to significantly cut teaching budgets and a large slice of the funding which has been used to teach students is going to disappear. This money has to come from somewhere, and Browne suggests students should contribute more.

Taking a degree at Leeds is a life changing experience worth investing in. You will receive a fantastic education, learning what knowledge is and how it's created. You will be involved in the research process. You will make friends and have experiences that will stay with you for life. In purely financial terms, graduates can expect to earn around £160,000 more during their life than someone with two A Levels.

I will do all I can to ensure higher education remains accessible to all, regardless of background or wealth. Some believe a graduate tax is a better option. But a straightforward graduate tax is unfair on students, who would end up paying more for their degree than it costs. Browne himself did a point by point comparison on this in his review - it is worth reading what he has to say.

I understand many of you have reservations. But it is critical that in these uncertain times, we keep talking to each other. I will do everything I can to ensure present and future students at Leeds receive the education they deserve and expect.

Professor Michael Arthur

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